I would give an arm and a leg not to have watched tonight’s episode about ritual amputation. I had to put away the popcorn, and I’m still feeling a little woozy. What a freakshow: Men with rubber wings implanted in their shoulder blades! Women with surgically altered elf ears! Severed limbs floating in canals!
Shake it off, Leotta. You’ve got a blog to write.
Okay. We open with a pretty girl being abducted by a rogue taxi driver. Soon, her leg is found floating in the Gowanus Canal. Anyone who’s seen the Gowanus shouldn’t be surprised by the next revelation: several mystery legs have been dredged from its murky depths. All were cleanly sliced off at the knee. And forensic examination reveals that their owners were still alive when the limbs were severed.
Is this the work of some sick guy, or just a new women’s razor gone terribly wrong?
When the rest of the girl’s corpse turns up, our good detectives must delve into the seamy underworld of “body modification,” where women pay to have their ears shaped like elves, and men have horns surgically implanted into their foreheads. Ice-T and Amanda go to a carnival tent – literally a freakshow, filled with tattooed, body-bending extras who were clearly the reason for this entire episode – and pretend to be a couple looking to spice up their sex lives by reshaping their cartilage.
The trail soon leads to a pretty one-legged dental receptionist, who makes a side business out of stealing her employer’s nitrous oxide and surgically altering people into the fantasy creatures of their choosing. At first, the detectives think the receptionist amputated her own leg as a sort of avant-garde extension of ear piercing. But she swears it was from bone cancer.
Is she a victim or a perp?
Our detectives discover a one-legged prostitute – the former owner of one of the Gowanus gams – who tells them she sold her leg to a man for $25,000 to pay for her drug habit.
Is it the receptionist’s creepy dentist boss or his psychiatrist brother? Turns out, the brothers’ mom lost her leg in a car accident when they were kids. The psychiatrist became obsessed with one-legged women. After counseling the brave receptionist through her bone-cancer amputation, he decided women simply look better with one leg. Thus began his mission to de-leg the women of New York.
After a heart-to-heart with Olivia and Amanda, he cheerfully leads the detectives to the world’s least-monitored storage facility (didn’t anyone notice women going in with two legs and leaving with one?). In his penthouse storage unit, the sick psychiatrist has a little shop of horrors, complete with surgical saws, operating tables, and before-and-after photos of his victims. His eyes get all dreamy as he contemplates how Olivia and Amanda would look as amputees. They scowl, cuff him, and lead him away.
What they got right:
The detectives tonight used some very standard and respectable techniques that real police really use. Their methods included many we’ve discussed on this blog before: pulling security video, tracking cell phone numbers, looking up tattoos in the tattoo database, interviewing witnesses, police lying to witnesses to get a confession, and DNA testing to find the legs’ owners. All methods were quite realistic and authentic. It was just the subject matter that was bizarre and over-the-top.
As Nick said, “This just got weird.”
But – they had some basis in fact. There really is a whole freaky subculture of self-mutilation (also known as body modification). As someone with pierced ears, I may be waxing hypocritical here. But I spent way too much time going down a most disturbing Google rabbit hole tonight. If you have a strong stomach and the desire to see images you may never be able to get out of your head, click here to explore 3D body art, Satanic scarification, suspension (this one actually made me shriek), and even body modification for pets.
The show is certainly not falling into the trap of being predictable or cliched. You won’t find any crazed psychiatrists with sexualized amputation fetishes on Everybody Loves Raymond. Our SVU writers have proven themselves willing and able to go far afield to keep the show fresh and unique for us.
What they got wrong:
I’ve never heard of somebody getting their left leg cut off in some sort of bizarre ritualized mutilation fantasy. The right leg, perhaps.
No, seriously, I don’t need to tell you how crazy the plot was. We all know the entire storyline was just an excuse for that crazy body-mod circus tent. Which was some seriously entertaining television, but not remotely like any real case in the history of real cases.
On a more specific level, I’ve seen some terrible money-making schemes, but a prostitute selling her leg for $25,000 just doesn’t ring true. People have been known to sell their extra organs for money (kidneys are popular). Funeral parlors have been charged with cutting off corpses’ limbs and selling them for medical research. The worst thing I saw as a prosecutor were mothers who sold their own children into prostitution in order to fund a drug habit. But I’ve never heard of a single person selling their limbs for any amount of money. Maybe I’ve just been hanging out in the wrong circus tents.
Well, what do you think, SVU fans? Is amputation the new black? Would you be willing to sell any part of your body for cash? And what are the chances that a crazed psychiatrist who has a leg-amputation fetish would fall for a one-legged girl who just happens to be into surgical body-modification? Leave your comments!